Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Weather woes, and back to school, er, lessons

Two weekends ago we did have a bit of an ice storm, though the most difficult thing was icy roads from frozen rain, then sleet (piled up -- quite a lot of it), and then more freezing rain. What a mess. Yet it was just a glaze compared to the incredibly icy, no-electricity, winter wonderland that is eastern Oklahoma.

Each afternoon, all week, the public schools decided to cancel school for the next day, until the entire week had gone by. On Friday we were bracing for a bunch of snow... maybe snow and sleet... well, maybe it'll be just 2 inches of snow mixed with sleet... gee, it's not snowing Saturday morning as promised... in fact it rained a LOT all day long, glazing the trees with icy droplets, and cleared the last of the icy crud off pavement everywhere, and snowed for about an hour after dark Saturday night. Then the temp stayed above freezing all night and by morning it had all melted. I hear it snowed in Tucson, Arizona, though!

Amid that whole week of schoolkids home from school, bookended by weather drama, we did a little bit of lessons but never quite got in the full swing of our schooltime. As of yesterday, though, we did. The schoolkids were back in school, too, and the moms I know were soooo happy to have their households back in a familiar routine. My boys were far from thrilled, but they were so ready for the return of structure and challenge! Me too.

Late at night on that first icy weekend, the ice-encrusted tops of the trees caught the light from streetlights and outdoor house lights, and glowed in such a different way. That was wonderful to see.

After all the rain last weekend, and "warm" days (upper 30s), we had a nice setup for a white frost covering all open grassy places, and every twig and leaf on trees and shrubs in open places as well. All gone now, with the sun, but another fleeting wintry pleasure.

Now, back to Latin and math. Maybe we'll watch Survivorman for science this afternoon.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Hymns for hard times

A friend and her family are in an incredibly stress-filled situation that rings bells with me. I remember, I told her, some of our own tough times and the unbelievable stress. I offered her two verses from an old hymn that really, really, REALLY meant a lot to me. As I looked up the hymn in my church's hymnal, I discovered a wealth of other hymns about strength, and God's love, in tough times. Many, if not most, were written over a century ago, when times were often more difficult than I can easily imagine. I found a new favorite through my browsing.

First, my old favorite (verses 2 and 4)

"God moves in a mysterious way / his wonders to perform"

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
the clouds ye so much dread
are big with mercy, and shall break
in blessings on your head.

His purposes will ripen fast,
unfolding every hour;
the bud may have a bitter taste,
but sweet will be the flower.

No. 677, The Hymnal 1982. Written sometime between 1730 and 1800.

And here's a new favorite for me.

"How firm a foundation"

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
is laid for your faith in his excellent word!
What more can he say than to you he hath said,
to you that for refuge to Jesus have fled?

"Fear not, I am with thee; O be not dismayed!
For I am thy God, and will still give thee aid;
I'll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.

"When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
the rivers of woe shall not thee overflow;
for I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
and sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

"When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
my grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
the flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.

"The soul that to Jesus hath fled for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
that soul, through all hell shall endeavor to shake,
I'll never, no, never, no, never forsake."

No. 636, The Hymnal 1982. Words first published in 1787.


I'm not a fan of "God meant for this terrible thing to happen," or "How could a good and loving God allow this to happen?!"

Instead, when faced with terrible things in life, I hold in my heart my belief that what is real includes more than this world -- whether that is the existence of our souls or God's love enfolding us or what have you. I believe the terrible things in life are not the end, the final word about us... this world... our lives; that, in fact, we are closely held by God, our companion in the dark valley, even though we might be unable to know it. I hold that in my heart when I read these hymns.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

New blog look / Baby, it's cold outside

I finally made the switch to the new Blogger, and in the process found it to be simpler (at least a smidge) to use a new template. I'd customized the old one so much that it was going to be really hard to combine my customization with some of the new Blogger features. I don't love the current look, but it'll do. I do like the drop-down navigation for the archive. And so it goes. Change is the only constant, eh?

After a quiet night and morning, moments ago we heard sleet against the windows, and a roll of thunder! The world outside our windows is white and frozen, and it's about 25F. We got so much sleet yesterday that it covered the ground (grass poking up, though), the street, and rooftops. The trees and bushes have that clear-to-white edge that betrays their frozen-rain cocoon of ice. The next 24 hours might bring freezing rain, or "just" sleet. We're staying home, that's for sure!

Friday, January 12, 2007

The ice storm approacheth

Time for a good old Oklahoma ice storm. It was supposed to start as rain this morning turning to freezing rain this afternoon as the temp dropped with the arrival of arctic air, and another surge of freezing rain tomorrow (Saturday), turning to sleet or a snow/sleet mix by Sunday.

Well, things are working out a bit differently -- typical for something as incredibly complex as continent-scale weather! At 8 am it was 30F (15 degrees cooler than expected) and there was a thin layer of ice on things outside, and freezing rain. Half an hour later the temp had dropped to 28F, eek! Quick, bundle up the kids and myself, hop in the car (hmm, slushy, slidey-y roads), and pick up the things I'd meant to get already, sigh. Now we have milk, eggs, lots of apples, and some other things.

The big concern, besides being stuck at home for days (that's not too bad) is losing power for a significant amount of time. Ice storms and power lines and trees are not a happy combination.

As I was dropping my husband off at work this morning, we figured we'll be fine as long as the gas still works (i.e., heat via fireplace, cooking, hot water). This arctic air is going to keep us in the chill box for most of the next week, though. Without power we wouldn't be the warmest we've ever been, but if we can eat and drink good warming food and keep a low fire in the fireplace, then certainly we can bundle up and find ways to occupy ourselves. We can play board and card games, the kids can play with toys, we can read, play the piano (with cold fingers!), and go to bed shortly after it gets dark and get a good long night's sleep (under LOTS of covers). Thanks to my guys' recent camping adventures with Cub Scouts, and forward-thinking relatives, the boys now have at least four wind-up flashlights, yay.

If the weather is good but we have no power, we can use our charcoal grill for a change of pace with cooking. I would feel secure, I think, rather than perpetually underprepared, IF we had oil lamps, our fireplace were actually efficient, and I always kept our pantry well stocked. How cool it would be to have a wood stove and a good store of seasoned wood -- we could cook and heat water and heat the living area all at once.

Speaking of pantry, I can make these hearty main dishes this weekend, with the gas stove and oven.
- Black bean soup (beans cooking right now) with diced sausage.
- Baked pasta with simple red sauce, Mozzarella, Parmesan.
- Soup with wild rice (or lentils) and diced sausage.
- Quiche, or scrambled eggs and salsa (or some such), and corn tortillas.
- Mexican rice and beans -- as burritos or on a plate with tortillas.

and sides of baked or roasted or mashed or gratin-ed sweet potatoes and baking potatoes; baked or sauteed apples or raw apple slices; and I think I have carrots.

For breakfasts (and go-withs) I want to have homemade breads -- my task for the rest of today -- and eggs; maybe coffeecake or quick breads (cranberry and pumpkin) for tomorrow morning. And cream cheese. If the power is out I'll make coffee on the *stovetop*, or even the grill, if necessary!!!

Lunches and snacks: leftovers, breads with peanut butter or cream cheese, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cream cheese rollups, cinnamony apple slices.

And tea. With boiling water, I can drink tea and chai for a couple of hours from my big, swaddled teapot.

Gee, I don't really cook like this most of the time, though we all enjoy it when I do. It's just that I want hearty, warming foods! I really need to tend my beans and laundry now, and start bread. Chatter, chatter says the sleet, throwing itself against our ice-laden windows and window screens...

Monday, January 01, 2007

2006 blogging in review

I've seen this several places, mostly recently at The Black Pearl Academy, and finally decided to go for it. The idea is to post the first line of your first blog post from each month of 2006. Here goes...

January 2006 - Two things I've learned already in the new year: Magic Loop is very helpful for hats, and it IS possible to muck out and rearrange my office space in one day even with several years of paper clutter amidst everything.

February 2006 - I love the Lilypie tickers.

March 2006 - "You need to watch for and encourage your child's originality and not let the schools snuff it out...." (post about frustration with Son1's school difficulties)

April 2006 - Solution to peak-oil-induced world weariness: read my favorite blogs.

May 2006 - How is it that I can be cheerful while reading Collapse: How societies choose to fail or succeed, by Jared Diamond (on CD in the car, and the occasional dip into the book itself at home) AND The Long Emergency: Surviving the converging catastrophes of the 21st century, by James Kunstler?

June 2006 - Favorite book I'm currently reading: Gaia's Garden: A guide to home-scale permaculture, by Toby Hemenway.

July 2006 - I'm trying the RevGalBlogPals Friday Five -- a few hours late. Oops.

August 2006 - Last year at this time we spent three weeks in Washington state. (gas prices rant and my efforts to conserve)

September 2006 - My sons have run a lemonade stand in our driveway for the last three afternoons.

October 2006 - I just wrote this to a friend, and it bears posting here. Time is flying by for me -- every Saturday I stop, breathe, and think, "It's Saturday again already?!?"

November 2006 - I'm just wondering. For Thanksgiving Day or weekend, do you have plans to feast, travel, attend a church service, get together with family or with friends (or both), watch the big-city parades or football on TV, do something completely different?

December 2006 - Advent Friday Five from the RevGalBlogPals, as Advent begins this Sunday.

Wow, that was a whirlwind tour of the year!

Is breadbaking frugal?

That was sort of the question asked on a favorite homeschooling discussion board. My answer:

"Frugal types can bake sandwich bread cheaper than buying it. Or you can REALLY beat storebought prices if you make hearty or fancy types!

"I buy flour when it's cheap, yeast in bulk, and make fairly plain bread most of the time for the pleasure of providing good bread to my family. Oatmeal bread or a plain white or part-wheat bread for sandwiches & toast, mainly.

"When I add whole-wheat flour and/or other good ingredients, maybe try a multi-grain bread, or even try something fancy like eggy challah or brioche for Easter, or citrus-scented Portuguese bread, then I am making something I simply won't pay the going price to buy from someone else."

I really did make brioche for Easter one year -- wowza, is that stuff ever a great celebration bread! Last month, before Christmas, I'd been thinking about making stollen, as my mom used to do, but I didn't get into baking mode in time to do that.

I had forgotten about my beloved Portuguese bread recipe. It was from one of those once-a-month cooking cookbooks. I remember that my husband doesn't like the original version, with orange and lemon zest, and that I would make another batch scented with cinnamon for him. Time to put that recipe back into circulation!